If the Liberty football team is going to win, it's going to do it through the air.
That's the philosophy of Lions head coach Ken Johnson, who has transformed the team's traditional wing-T offense into more risky, but more exciting two- and three-wide receiver sets.
"It was time to change up a little bit, to get a little excitement back," Johnson said. The coach said he made the decision to employ a passing game after studying his personnel during the off-season. Senior quarterback Tony Scirica started the final three games of last season and boasts a strong arm to go with his 6-foot-1 frame.
Senior 6-foot-3 tight end Robbie Ruch is an All-County player from last year, and senior Jim Miller and J.D. Egolf have the speed and athletic talent to find the gaps in opposing defenses.
"I knew that we had some kids with good hands," Johnson said. "And they have some speed to go with those hands."
The new playbook was a success in its debut last Friday as Liberty pounded Boonsboro, 27-7. Scirica threw for 197 yards and three touchdowns. Egolf caught two of the scores, Miller snared the other, and Ruch hauled in five passes for 59 yards.
But the new style has its disadvantages, namely asking the defense to play longer. At one point during the Boonsboro game, the Lions failed to complete a pass in three consecutive series.
Johnson hasn't totally abandoned the running game, but he said the incompletions won't deter him from the passing attack.
"There's always that reality ... but instead of running to pass, we're passing to set up the run," he said. "We're going to run less conservative plays, and that's exciting."
Czajkowski on mend
A concussion and a broken jaw didn't prevent North Carroll senior midfielder Shawn Czajkowski from attending the team's practice Tuesday.
Czajkowski will miss tonight's home game against Long Reach, but may be permitted to practice with the team as early as tomorrow, said Panthers coach Chuck Beaver. "I thought we were going to lose him for the season," Beaver said. "It's amazing."
Czajkowski suffered the injuries in the 62nd minute of Monday's 3-0 loss to Hereford when he and Bulls junior goalkeeper Charles Barker crashed into each other going after a loose ball.
Barker needed stitches to close a wound on his nose, but Czajkowski was taken to a local hospital with an upper jaw fracture and a concussion.
Czajkowski underwent 90 minutes of surgery to re-set his jaw and still is experiencing headaches from the concussion. If he does return to play, Czajkowski will have to wear a mouth guard to prevent another concussion.
Beaver said the collision was frightening.
"We could hear his teeth clatter from the sideline," Beaver said. "It could've been a whole lot worse."
The Westminster Cross Country Invitational is less than a month away, but 27 schools have already committed to participate in the meet on Oct. 12.
Some of the girls teams expected to be involved in the invitational are top-ranked C. Milton Wright, No. 4 Severna Park and sixth-ranked North Carroll. Boys teams agreeing to participate are No. 1 South Carroll, fourth-ranked Severna Park and No. 5 C. Milton Wright.
"We are happy about the response," said Westminster girls coach Sarah Ensor. "You always hope for it to be competitive."
Nine teams competed in last year's meet, which had been postponed because of Hurricane Floyd. And unlike last season, next month's meet will be held at Westminster High School.
Ensor said schools officials elected to host the event instead of taking it to Western Maryland College to reduce administrative difficulties.